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He who laps last: Edwards outlasts Earnhardt for second straight victory

SHARE He who laps last: Edwards outlasts Earnhardt for second straight victory

LAS VEGAS — The race went 267 laps, but the outcome of the the UAW-Dodge NASCAR 400 came down to the final two.

And, Carl Edwards (Ford) was able to stay ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevrolet) for those two laps and win his second race in a row.

There was, however, an issue after a post-race inspection of Edwards' car. A lid on an oil reservoir box was missing. Officials will reinspect the car and review circumstances. A decision on the missing lid will be made next week, and until then the victory stands.

The Las Vegas race is the third of the NASCAR season. It is also the closest race to the Utah area and draws a lot of Utah fans.

The final situation in the Sunday race was this: Four leaders — Edwards, Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth (Ford) were lined up for a restart on the 10th caution. Earnhardt, in second position at the time, spun his tires and was slow on the restart, which allowed Kenseth and Gordon to pass — Kenseth high and Gordon low.

After the pass, Gordon drifted up and lightly tapped Kenseth on the left-rear, which started the two cars spinning. Gordon rolled down into the infield and crashed hard into a retaining wall. Kenseth was able to steer out of trouble and continued to race, but dropped in 20th.

The crash stopped the race to allow crews to clean up debris. The remaining cars lined up and waited more than 17 minutes for the restart and the final two laps. At the time there were 21 cars on the lead lap. Several drivers said the delay left them exhausted and extremely anxious from sitting there, "not knowing what's going on," and would have preferred finishing the last two laps under the green flag.

On the final restart for two laps, Edwards accelerated into the lead and Earnhardt could only follow. Greg Baffle (Ford), who finished third, tried to pass Earnhardt, but, as he said, "There wasn't time."

"I couldn't get the front and back to hook up real good," said Earnhardt. "I thought we were going to be in good shape to race Carl on the first restart, but I spun my tires and (Gordon) got around me. We were just not that good on cold tires.

"I should have paid more attention ... I had to be more aggressive."

Edwards said he got good traction on he final two restarts, "but I was nervous. I knew Dale was there."

It was a win that almost got away from Edwards early, however. During one early pit stop, a tire got away from his pit crew and he was penalized and moved back in the race lineup. He raced back among the leaders, but then it happened again and he faced another penalty that would have kept him out of position to win. Officials ruled, however, that the crew was interfered with and there was no penalty.

Sunday's finish was very similar to the end of the Sam's Town 300 on Saturday when Mark Martin bumped Edwards, who was running in second and spun into Bob Keselowski, who was leading and crashed with six laps to go. Martin took the checkered.

Gordon said he made a mistake. "I didn't want to be on the inside. The car was tight and I wanted to be on the outside. I got to the bottom and tried to move up" when he tapped Kenseth.

Baffle said it was not an uncommon problem. When one car is running below another, the air pressure that helps keep the car on the ground is lost, and the car can drift, "and it happens."

Biffle said he had the fastest car on the track, but it had a "dumb" driver. He also had his troubles, which included a spinout, a bad pit stop, a pit penalty and some bad decisions.

Last year, the Las Vegas track and Goodyear tires were held to criticism by drivers. This year the track was not a problem, but tires were for many racers. Sam Hornish Jr. (Dodge), Tony Stewart (Toyota) and Robby Gordon (Dode) all crashed when tires blew out.

Gordon said : "It was pretty simple. We were going into Turn One and the tire blew and when it blew it put me into the wall."

Stewart said : "I just lost the right front tire. When it did, it just took off straight. It was a really big angle — the hit it seemed like to me Probably the hardest one I remember taking for a long time."

Hornish said: "(I) just lost the right front tire going through the trioval. It's kind of hard for us, obviously, but even worse the fact that we were just getting ready to pit."

Edwards' win puts him in the overall points lead for the first time in his career. It was his first win at Las Vegas, but his ninth NASCAR win. It was Earnhardt's third top-10 finish at the track in nine starts. It was Biffle's third top-10 finish at the track.

Edwards' win also ended Jimmie Johnson's run at four straight victories at Las Vegas.

Las Vegas results

1. (2) Carl Edwards, Ford

2. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet

3. (6) Greg Biffle, Ford

4. (17) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet

5. (24) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet

6. (37) Kasey Kahne, Dodge

7. (38) David Ragan, Ford

8. (29) Travis Kvapil, Ford

9. (27) Denny Hamlin, Toyota,

10. (3) Mark Martin, Chevrolet

11. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota,

12. (10) Elliott Sadler, Dodge

(Start position in parentheses)

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